If You Only Knew(7)

By: Kristan Higgins

“Princesses!” he exclaims, kneeling down to hug them. He smiles up at me.

God, I love him.

He’s still so good-looking. Better-looking, one of those boyish faces that’s improved with age since we met ten years ago. His black hair is starting to gray, and smile lines fan out from his eyes. He’s the same weight he was when we got married. So am I, though I’ve had to fight for it, and some of my parts aren’t exactly where they used to be. But Adam is nearly unchanged.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says, standing up to kiss me.

“That’s fine,” I tell him. “We can eat after they go to bed.” We try to eat all together every night, but sometimes life interferes. And honestly, how nice this will be! Almost a date. Hopefully, Grace won’t keep getting out of bed, because if she does, Rose will, too.

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” Charlotte chants.

“Rose, put that down, honey,” he says as she tries to carry his briefcase. “Rach, I’ll put them to bed, how’s that?”

“That would be great,” I say. “They’ll love that.”

A lot of people in this area work in Manhattan. Two of my friends have apartments in the city, and one’s husband lives there during the week. A lot of folks don’t get home from work until eight or nine. But Adam has always worked here, in Cambry-on-Hudson, ever since he graduated from Georgetown, and it’s just one more thing I’m grateful for. He spends more time with the girls than most of my friends’ husbands, the type of dad who has tea parties with our daughters, pushes them too high on their swings and has promised a puppy for their fourth birthday.

In Cambry-on-Hudson, being a stay-at-home mom is common, and the lovely neighborhoods are full of slim, highlighted mothers in Volvo Cross Countrys and Mercedes SUVs, moms who get together for coffee at Blessed Bean and go shopping together for a dress to wear to the latest fund-raiser.

I do some of those things, too—Mommy and Me swim class at the country club that I’m still a little embarrassed about joining. Adam said we needed the membership to schmooze for his job as a corporate attorney. But I still feel shy. And incredibly lucky, too.

Adam takes off his suit jacket and drapes it over the railing. “Story time!” he announces, then scoops all three girls into his arms and carries them upstairs. Grace’s dark cloud has lifted, Charlotte is shrieking with delight and Rose has snuggled her head against his shoulder and waves to me.

I pick up Adam’s jacket automatically and put it in the dry-cleaning bag in the hall closet, then go into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. Fifteen more minutes for the salmon. From upstairs, I can hear Adam singing “Baby Beluga” to the girls.

This little window of quiet is a gift. I look around the kitchen, which I love. I love our whole house, a big 1930s house that has no particular style, but is gracious and warm and interesting. Jenny teases me about being a throwback, and it’s true, I love all the homey stuff—baking and gardening and decorating. Our childhood home was nearly perfect until Daddy died, and Mom and Dad were so happy, so solid, so together...that was what I wanted, ever since I can remember.

From the hall closet, I hear a phone chime. I guess Adam’s phone is in his suit pocket. Can’t have him lose that, because, like most people these days, it’s practically an appendage. I retrieve the phone and glance at the screen.

The text is from Private Caller. There’s an attachment. No message.

“Baby Beluga” is still being sung upstairs.

The phone chimes again, startling me. Private Caller again, but this time, a message.

Do you like this?

I click on the attachment. It’s a slightly blurry picture, but of what, I’m not sure. A...a tree, maybe, though it doesn’t look so healthy. It looks diseased, moist and soft. There’s a knothole that looks damp and sick. Whatever it is, I can’t imagine why someone would be sending it to Adam. He doesn’t know anything about trees.

A vein in my neck throbs. The vampire vein. Maybe it’s an artery. I don’t know.

Baby Beluga, Baby Beluga...

This was clearly sent to Adam by mistake. That’s it, because otherwise, Adam would have this person in his contacts list. His phone is always completely up-to-date. In fact, he lost it last week, and he went a little crazy looking for it. All those contacts, he said. All those saved texts and apps and calendar notes and everything that I don’t use on my phone. I just use it to call or text him or Jenny, or in case the nursery school needs to get in touch with me.

I think it’s a tree. I’m almost positive.

But Adam doesn’t know anything about trees. This was probably meant for the...the...the tree warden or something.

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